Don't judge a game by its cover. Judge it by its demo.

Going for a Spin: Why EVERY Game Should Have a Demo in the Digital Age

Don't judge a game by its cover. Judge it by its demo.

With the state of the economy, paying $60 for a game with a full, retail release isn’t a small matter. As such, it’s good to know exactly what you’re purchasing before you buy it.

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In the days of the 5th and 6th generations of gaming, the eras where consoles such as the Sony Playstation and Nintendo Gamecube were taking gamers to new lands, companies would frequently release demo disks. On these disks were lengthy demos, usually consisting of at least one complete level, for usually two to four games.

These demos, usually for major releases, served a dual purpose: to get people excited for the games and to let gamers decide there and then if they were interested in purchasing the games. It saved a lot of people a lot of many, and helped many games that would have probably never found a loyal following to do so. 

In more recent times, demo disks have been replaced with downloadable demos. While not all of them have been up to snuff with the superb demos available on yesteryear’s disks, there have been some truly marvelous ones.

Can anyone say Bayonetta 2 on the Wii U?

Prior to playing this demo, I had little to no interest in the Bayonetta games. However, the developers included the entire first chapter of the game in this demo: cut scenes, bosses, everything. And, as it happens, the first level of Bayonetta 2 is one of the greatest openings to any game I’ve ever played.

It taught you how to play the game, it gave you a good time, it perfectly displayed the over the top, cheesy nature of the series, and, most importantly, it made me want to buy the game.

In essence, it was a perfect demo.

However, in the past several years, one of two things has happened. The market has been 1.) flooded with an abundance of demos for mediocre games and 2.) flooded with an abudance of demos that fail to do any of the things I just described above.

For the sake of easy comparison, let’s look at the demo for another excellent Wii U title, The Wonderful 101.

Unlike the actual game, the demo has many major flaws, from the whole thing being a giant tutorial (meaning you don’t really get to experience the game) to it just being very, very short. However, its biggest crime against gaming is the lack of explanation the demo gives you.

Several times throughout my first playing of the demo, I got stuck, having no idea what I was supposed to do because, despite the demo being a glorified tutorial, it fails to explain how to perform key actions and understand pivotal mechanics. 

So, what’s left as one of the main methods of marketing for the game is a poorly executed tutorial with no replay value, something that fails to make the player interested in the game. In fact, it may have turned off many gamers … 

And that compounds an industry problem: When demos aren’t poorly made, they’re non-existent. Be they indie games or AAA titles, there are numerous games of varying quality that do not release demos.

The reason for why developers wouldn’t release demos is actually quite obvious: Demos give players a reason NOT to buy a game. For devs, the risks typically outweigh the overall benefits and while many would be potentially correct about this assertion, this is still a rather shady business practice. 

With digital distribution making demos cheaper than ever to release, there’s no reason why every game shouldn’t have a demo in the digital age. Gamers have the right to know what they’re buying before they buy it, and demos allow us to know just that.

Releasing a demo for every game would create greater transparency between developers and customers. In the crowdsourcing world, it would help developers better gauge their audience’s expectations and potentially course-correct when things aren’t going well. 

And demos would save gamers money. Today, with many games coming with extensive (and expensive) season passes and numerous buying options, gamers would be better educated on the games they’re most excited about — and potentially be more willing to dish out for that “Super XL Fancy Collector’s Bundle Edition.” 

Do you think every game should get a demo? Why should they or shouldn’t they? Sound off in the comments below! 


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An all-around nerd, a political activist, and, most importantly, a writer, Bobby Singer has a passion for storytelling, and dreams of writing comics and feature films.